On the occasion of the first Christmas celebrations in Ukraine since the start of the Russian war of aggression, the aid organization Save the Children drew attention to the dramatic situation of children in the country. The worst is the mental suffering. Grief and hopelessness are written all over the children’s faces.
On the occasion of the first Christmas celebrations in Ukraine since the start of the Russian war of aggression, the aid organization Save the Children drew attention to the dramatic situation of children in the country. “They are not in a celebratory mood, but are fighting to survive and to cope with everyday life in the war,” said the managing director of the German section of Save the Children, Florian Westphal, of the AFP news agency with a view to the holidays. Above all, children in Ukraine simply want peace.
Especially at Christmas, the situation caused by the war weighs heavily on the families. “Many fathers serve in the army and the children miss them particularly now,” Westphal said. With shelter and play areas, Save the Children wants to ensure that “children can forget everyday wartime life for a while”. There they could “play, learn and laugh with their peers,” said Westphal. “That’s at least as important to her right now as a Christmas present.”
The work of Save the Children in Ukraine, which has been ongoing since 2014 and has been significantly expanded this year, will also be continued over the holidays. Since the beginning of the war in February, around 400,000 children and almost as many adults have been reached in the country, where water and power failures caused by Russian air raids are currently making life even more difficult for people in the freezing cold winter. For example, the employees provided emergency aid by providing displaced families with accommodation, food and drink or medicine, Westphal said. “The children of Ukraine face death and destruction on a daily basis.”
The worst is the mental suffering. Grief and hopelessness are written all over the children’s faces. Westphal gave an eight-year-old girl as an example. She was “so badly marked by the war at a young age that a large strand of her hair has faded. When the bomb alarm goes off, her whole body trembles.” Some children, on the other hand, no longer hear the sounds of bombs and rockets. “That’s also shocking,” said Westphal.
However, the situation for children is also dramatic in other countries, emphasized Westphal, emphasizing Yemen and Somalia. In Somalia, children in particular are suffering from hunger because of years of drought. Many children struggled to survive. “And even in the children who make it, malnutrition slows physical and mental development. These consequences can be felt for a lifetime.” Millions of people lost their livelihoods as a result of the Corona crisis and the climate crisis. According to the children’s rights organization, every sixth child worldwide – 449 million girls and boys – grows up in a war or conflict zone.
Due to the Ukraine war and the resulting rise in food prices, hunger is spreading even more rapidly. This year, 20 percent more children needed humanitarian aid than in the previous year. “We need significantly more money for humanitarian aid and for long-term development programs so that children are better prepared for future crises,” Westphal demanded. However, he emphasized that the willingness to help in Germany was unbroken despite the drastically rising prices in this country.
The children themselves give Westphal hope. In a school in Afghanistan, a 15-year-old girl recently told him that she wanted to be a doctor or midwife, “because that doesn’t exist in her village yet,” said Westphal. “I am convinced that children can make the world a better place if we respect their rights and give them the necessary tools to do so.”